Tag Archives: electronica

Fretboards & Circuit Boards

Chico Mann - Analog DriftBack in March, pop critic Oliver Wang posed a question to readers of his blog, Soul-Sides.comCan any of my musicological-oriented readers out there opine on why “electro” production is appealing? By “electro” I mean things like synthesizer chords that are clearly mechanical in source (i.e. can’t be created using any acoustic instrument, amplified or not).

It’s a great question — what’s the appeal of inorganic sounds? Thinking back to that Raymond Scott collection that came out a while ago, I’d have to say novelty and otherworldliness are two big elements of that appeal, or at least were at the start.

In Jon Pareles’s review of this weekend’s Moogfest he covers this very topic, and drills down further. There’s the analog vs. digital synthesizer debate — do you prefer your synthetic tones to be continuous electronic signals or chopped up into 0s and 1s? Which is more real? Pareles seems to come down on the side of the analog purists, writing that “Analog sounds are a funky corrective to sterile digital tones; colliding waveforms make a beautiful noise.” But overall, for Pareles, the festival was one of “synthetic tones that grew to feel natural.”

Of course, now certain synthetic sounds are just another part of the pop palette, they do feel natural, and thanks to their widespread use, especially in the ’80s, they can readily evoke a host of meanings, from retro cool (think 808 hand claps) to straight-up cheese (see “Red Rose for Gregory” in my previous post).

Antibalas guitarist Marcos Garcia has been mixing afrobeat and Latin grooves with drum machines and synths for a few years now under the moniker Chico Mann. Last week his latest album, Analog Drift, was released on Wax Poetics Records.

Chico Mann - Analog Drift: Muy...EsniquiAn earlier version of this album, called Analog Drift: Muy​.​.​.​Esniqui, dropped in 2009, and I listened to it a lot when it first came out. It was released on CD in limited quantities, and it was also available on the Chico Mann bandcamp page. That album has since been taken down, but the individual tracks are still up and findable with some Googling (e.g., here and here).

The songs on the new Analog Drift, like the old version, and most of the stuff on the artist’s Manifest Tone series, follow a simple formula: one or two guitars lay down an afrobeat-style groove, an 808-sounding drum machine provides the beat, synth bass, leads, and pads fill out the sound, and (sometimes) repetitive, chant-like vocals (in English and/or Spanish) float on top. Some of the tracks have enough bleeps and boops and buzzes for an old-school video game, and the album art of both versions — Sim ziggurat and 8-bit caricature — clearly evokes that aesthetic. It’s fun and hypnotic. Novel and retro. Warm analog and cool digital. Spacefunk en Español.

Chico Mann, “Guardalo (El Silencio)” [Buy Analog Drift]

Just ’cause, here’s some Earth-bound, down-and-dirty Antibalas:

Antibalas, “Pay Back Africa” [Buy Who Is This America?]

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Meanwhile in Pakistan…

Here’s a Tuesday track for the Gingrich-Palin-Reid demagogues who’ve succeeded in making such a big ado about the proposed Burlington Coat Factory YMMA, from British noise pioneer Muslimgauze’s 1995 double album, Izlamaphobia.  It’s different and scaaaaaaaaaaaary!

Muslimgauze, “Vanilla Jellaba”

[Buy Izlamaphobia]

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Sweden: shwjergen!

Sweden has a lot going for it.   Its many cultural achievements include: anti-copyright advocates, bloodthirsty children, a serious love of coffeefrightening poetry*, meatballs, dancing policemenand goth detectives

But speaking of Swedish trilogies…back in January, the folk-electronica sextet from Malmö, Sweden, Fredrik, released a sophomore album Trilogi that is really three limited release EPs put together.  Evocative and eerie, Trilogi takes you on a thematic journey from Frozen Forests to the Underworld.  While I find it hit or miss at times, tracks like the plaintive and medieval sounding “Milo” makes Fredrik one more thing for Sweden to crow about.

Apparently they did a one week US tour back during Snowpocalypse 2010, stopping hardly anywhere (and yet finding time to play a bookstore in Harrisburg?), but if you like this you can catch them in a stripped down, acoustic, slightly hungover form over at the NPR website.

Fredrik, “Milo”

You can buy Trilogi at Amazon.

It’s not exactly weekend dancing music (unlike The Gas House Gorillas, who played energetic swing music to an appreciative Musikfest crowd of saddle-shoed hipsters and old folks alike the other night), but I like it.

*If you click on any of these links, click on this one.

Update!  I forgot…that NPR concert has spooky whistling.

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And for more dancin' fun, some Treasure Fingers

Here’s a link to Treasure Fingers’ July 15, 2010 live dj set at San Francisco’s Temple. Treasure Fingers is one of my sister’s and my favorite djs du jour. And below is one of my fave July dance tracks, which also happens to be track one on this live set (Minus the intrusive overlay of a dude continuously saying “TREASURE FINGERSSSS.”).

Off to Chicago to dance Kaskade-style with my sister. Shake it!

Tensnake: “Coma Cat”

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Feel it in My Bones

I didn’t love Tegan & Sara’s most recent release, Sainthood. None of their recent albums have come close to the indie pop perfection of So Jealous, an album that gave me high hopes for the band.

However, I do like this Tiesto track featuring the twins, “Feel it in My Bones,” one that slutted around the I-way last summer, and so I give you a Friday track on Wednesday, following in David’s footsteps of pretending it was the weekend last Thursday. Our attention span is getting shorter and shorter here on NoiseNarcs. Also, why do all indie twins have to be this hot?

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If Elliott Smith and Bjork Had Had an Affair (pre Barney, of course)

Here on Noise Narcs, someone has to sometimes post electronica or we might get lost in a sea of Dylanesque masculinity. Besides, it’s the weekend.

So, here are three tracks. First, in honor of my sister who is always in trouble for not reading this blog,  is Grum’s “Through the Night,” a nostalgia-laden dance track that has been cheering hearts from Miami to Ibiza to Madison. My sister introduced me to Grum’s recent release Heartbeats this past weekend, while we danced in a hot apartment with boys wearing bikini tops and wearing Mexican masks and nevernudes. Grum is getting compared a lot these days to Daft Punk and even Giorgio Moroder. The album, like so many others these days, harkens back to the 80s while still keeping an eye on the modern dance floor. It’s a little uneven, but the good songs are worth it.

Second comes from LA duo Ory Hodis and Mike Jerugim’s recent release under the moniker Undo, an indie electronica album that, while a bit unsteady in places, is a strong listen. They’re being called organic and other things that make little sense to me. I’m posting “Tungsten,” a song about Polaroids that reminds me of what would happen if Elliott Smith had a brief, passionate affair with Bjork, and “Five Minutes.” People are comparing this album to Atlas Sound, for reasons I know and care not.

Grum: “Through the Night”

Undo: “Tungsten”

Undo: “Five Minutes”

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Hey, baby, wanna kill all humans?

Good news, everybody! Futurama, incredibly, has returned to us tonight.  To commemorate the event, NoiseNarcs-style, I’m posting Pierre Henry‘s “Psyché Rock” from his 1967 musique concréte ballet, Messe Pour Le Temps Presént (Mass for the Present-day).  “Psyché Rock” was Christopher Tyng’s inspiration for Futurama‘s theme song in the same way that “Under Pressure” was the inspiration for “Ice Ice Baby.”

Pierre Henry, “Psyche Rock”

“Oh, dear, I should have shown him Electrogonorrhea: the Noisy Killer instead.” –Prof. Farnsworth

Feel free to post favorite Futurama quotes in the comments section.

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1-UP: Giving music a second life

In the past week, I’ve been inundated with music that I had written off. So, a new feature: 1-UP, where we fess up to hatin’ on bands that shouldn’t have been hated on.

Alex Bleeker and the Freaks
There was nothing wrong with Real Estate’s album. It just didn’t capture me, Pitchfork’s 8.5 seemed ridiculous, and I wrote them off as just another wave in this year’s tsunami of beach rock. But their side project, Alex Bleeker and the Freaks, will have me giving them another look. Imagine Yo La Tengo and Neil Young forming a classic rock band. Or really, forget that critic speak: just imagine really chill classic rock.

Alex Bleeker and the Freaks, “Animal Tracks”

I’ve never disliked Kraftwerk, but I’ve always put them in the formative but not for me category, and skipped them for their off-shoot Neu! (who really are the best). After reading about Philly’s newest Fishtown watering hole, I put onTrans Europe Express while walking home, and damn was I wrong. Sorry, legendary electronica weirdos: my bad.

Joanna Newsom
Nope, I was right. Still unlistenable. Someone needs to hold an intervention for Andy Samberg.

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New Music Tuesday (another ode to Lala)

So it’s (late) Wednesday, and I realized only yesterday that Noise Narcs needs some sort of New Music Tuesday posts.

Every Tuesday, we who lust after music flock to sites like Lala.com to listen to new releases. Sure, real music lusters have heard most or all of many new releases far before their release dates, but since Lala has made it so easy to listen to music without cheating, I like to honor musicians and bands by waiting (in most cases) until their official release dates to listen to full albums. The beauty of Lala, also, is that it posts new releases by category, making it absurdly easy to glide through a genre, listening to a dozen or more new albums during a workday.

Here are just a few of the albums I listened to on 2.23.10:

A-Trak: Infinity + 1
K-os: Yes!
Holly Miranda: The Magician’s Private Library
Bomb the Bass: Boy Girl
Johnny Cash: American VI: Ain’t No Grave

(There’s also Steve Reich’s Phases, which I am embarrassed to say I forgot to listen to in my K-os and A-Trak excitement.)

Not all of which were good, mind you. In fact, coming down from New Music Tuesday is often like sliding off a sugar or coffee high. First, you are frantically firing all synapses trying to find the time to listen to everything in the electronica and indie rock categories, but by the end of the day, you are left with a few good tracks or—if you are lucky—one great album.

This week, Holly Miranda’s The Magician’s Private Library stands out for what it could have been had Miranda not overly channeled Chan Marshall (one of my favorite songwriters, but a woman who should never, ever, be allowed on stage in front of an audience who has paid to hear her play live): a gorgeous, ethereal, lyrically-driven album. Unfortunately, the Catpower influence is so strong that it distracts more than charms.

K-os’ album Yes! is another decent entry into the mindful hip-hop genre.

Bomb the Bass’ “Boy Girl (FM Radio Gods Remix)” is a moody entry into the electro deep, and I’m not posting it here lest I get punished by David for its length.

I think it’s A-Trak’s Infinity + 1 that is the heavy hitter this week, although it is a mix album and only contains two remixes of A-Trak’s own (coincidentally not my favorite on the album). A-Trak was a turntable superstar by the age of 18 (an influence you can hear in the turntablism you can hear on his tracks), but he’s perhaps better known for being Kanye West’s touring dj. He’s put together a bouncy little number here (I’m having visions of David and his purse hopping like a kangaroo–um, I mean, dancing gracefully–around the dance floor, or perhaps that is David holding the purse I’ve made him hold for me while I use the powder room).

So here’s a track from Infinity + 1, a song I’ve been digging for a while, Little Boots’ “Stuck on Repeat (Fake Blood Remix).”

A-Trak, “Stuck on Repeat (Fake Blood remix)”

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